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  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
    May 6, 1880 - Jun 15, 1938
  • Winter Moon Landscape - Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was a German expressionist painter and printmaker and one of the founders of the artists group Die Brücke or "The Bridge", a key group leading to the foundation of Expressionism in 20th century art. He volunteered for army service in the First World War, but soon suffered a breakdown and was discharged. In 1933, his work was branded as "degenerate" by the Nazis and in 1937 over 600 of his works were sold or destroyed. In 1938 he committed suicide.
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Winter Moon Landscape
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  • Winter Moon Landscape

  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
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  • 1919
    Oil on canvas
    47 1/4" x 47 1/4"

    He sees the same surge and collision of forces in his landscapes. The mountains and trees and cabins and skies are not simply there, they come from somewhere, just as do the people that inhabit his city streets. The place they come from is him, not as a matter of self-centeredness but of ecstatic perception. They are products of his colors, the movements of his hand. They move into place only at his insistence that they are there already. Even more than Van Gogh, whose work he revered, he inhabits the intensity of the color and light he sees. Winter Landscape by Moonlight of 1919 is apparently a view from his window, again near Davos, experienced on one very feverish night. The colors are primary--red, yellow, blue--sky and trees, moon and clouds, mountains--the images shaped and arranged in the simplest possible way. Yet the effect is of infinite complexity, because the brush has put down what is in fact there, and one perceives the enormous leap that has been made from the brush to as far away as the moon and beyond. A prodigious energy pushes the landscape into existence, with yellow clouds racing across the sky and red trees madly choreographed, like the figures in the streets or dancehalls of Berlin. And there buried in the bowels of the landscape, is to be rediscovered the source of self.

    Art is therefore understood as a means of engaging the world's energy, not as it is but as it is constantly becoming. It is a process of encompassing over time what is in fact instantaneous. In Kirchner this is encouraged, I suppose, or at least is preceded by Van Gogh's emphatic compulsiveness, Munch's exhilarating inwardness, Toulouse-Lautrec's swirling fatalism, and even Vuillard's psychological intricacy, and parallels, or slightly follows, the Fauves, and particularly Matisse's, freeing of color from representation, though in a much more emotionally incisive way. Sources of energy early in his career are the studio (usually his own) filled with all forms of art, the bodies of young women and men, lovemaking, sprawling children, circus and cabaret performers, people in the streets consciously unconsciously performing, bathers on the shore in summer. In Dresden and Berlin, from 1905 into 1915, surrounded by other artists nearly as smitten as himself, Kirchner drew obsessively, painted, made woodcuts, and carved "primitivistic" figures of nudes from tree trunks.

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Other paintings by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner:

Dancer in a Blue Skirt
Dancer in a Blue Skirt
A Group of Artists: Otto Mueller, Kirchner, Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff
A Group of Artists: Otto Mueller, Kirchner, Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff
Aiuole di fiori nel parco di Dresda
Aiuole di fiori nel parco di Dresda
Ernst Ludwig KirchnerErnst Ludwig Kirchner was born in Aschaffenburg, Germany. Originally a student of architecture, Kirchner first became interested in fine arts during a visit to Nuremberg. The traditional German engravings he saw there served as the inspiration for his earliest efforts in the field of etching. When he began to paint he was influenced by Neo-Impressionism but, by 1904, the influence of the Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch and of African and oriental art helped him to simplify his use of form and color into large flat washes. The dominant member of Die Brücke, Kirchner worked with his friends in Dresden, graduated from architectural school in 1907, and then, with the members of Die Brücke, went to Berlin. It was there, between 1911 and 1914, that he painted his most famous works, portraying the eerie, worldly, and artificial life that was then typical of Berlin. He painted portraits and street scenes, locking his people in a web of rhythmic lines, distorting their forms and features into what he called "hieroglyphics," tinting them with unreal colors, and abstracting them from a reality that seems just beyond the reach of the known, and therefore haunting and hallucinatory.

While serving in the German Army, in 1916, Kirchner fell seriously ill and, in 1917, he left Germany for Switzerland, where he remained, constantly fighting against ailments, until his suicide in 1938 at Davos. The change of environment prompted a shift in the subject matter of his paintings, and the mountain landscapes and peasants of his later works are expressive of the link between man and nature. Late in the 1920's, he was much influenced by Picasso, and his work closely approached that of the Spanish artist during those years. However, his symbolic landscapes, often allegorical and even monumental in their symbolism, are more truly his own. Kirchner was also a sculptor and graphic artist, exceptionally talented in the making of woodcuts, and as forceful in black and white as in his vividly colored oil paintings.